As a minority Ukrainian refugee immigrant who has served America both as a public servant seeking elected office and in a career in the national security community, the polarization and public discourse from our elected officials about immigration policy continues to deeply disappoint me. 

America is the greatest country on earth and offers unparalleled economic and social freedoms. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that people will uproot their lives and risk everything they have to experience what so many natural-born citizens take for granted. 

I was born and raised in Soviet Ukraine until I was eight years old. There, we experienced daily inflation, religious oppression, and government-controlled propaganda through the news outlets and education system. My mother wanted a better life, so she decided we were going to move to America. Long before touching American soil, the process took over five years, beginning with obtaining the necessary documentation and vaccinations, completing multiple interviews and background checks, arranging housing, work, and school accommodations, and finally gaining approval to enter the United States.

Freedom and its limitless opportunities are why people come to America. Unfortunately, as evidenced by my own story coming to this country, our immigration system is outdated and lacks an innovative approach to support 21st-century challenges. We have an open border, displaced families, violence, drugs, and weapons being smuggled, human trafficking, and bad actors crossing over our southern border daily — a national security crisis unfolding before our eyes. All these things would understandably make people feel scared and want to shut down immigration. But what would stopping immigrants from coming in do to our country? We not only need a solution, but the right leadership to execute it.

For the first time in a decade, Representatives María Elvira Salazar (R-FL) and Veronica Escobar (D-TX) presented a bipartisan, sensible solution to the problems our country is facing. The introduction of their Dignity Act provides a complete solution to America’s immigration crisis, addressing the root causes of illegal immigration, providing dignity for undocumented immigrants living in the shadows, and ensuring that American workers are not left behind.

Like any sensible immigration legislation, the Dignity Act secures the border, mandates E-Verify, reforms the asylum system, protects Dreamers, and deals with undocumented immigrants compassionately. The Dignity Program allows undocumented immigrants to enter a new status where they can work and provide for their family while paying restitution to the American government and the taxpayer for a seven-year period. It also gives undocumented immigrants the opportunity to pursue U.S. citizenship if they so choose, conditional on both parties making good on their promise to secure the border first.

The beauty of the Dignity Act is the incredible prosperity it would unleash. The bill provides workforce retraining for unemployed or displaced American workers and implements market-based reforms for agricultural and guest workers. It also eliminates backlogs and improves the legal immigration system, ensuring our competitiveness in a world where the Chinese Communist Party is looking to attract high-skilled talent. Critically, the Dignity Act is fully funded by fees and restitution payments by immigrants, which means the burden would not fall on American taxpayers. If this bill becomes law, Congress and the White House will have the power to unleash the power of American markets and innovation for decades to come.

The Dignity Act is a sensible and Christian approach that upholds America’s legacy as a beacon of refuge for those seeking a new life and opportunities. America is and always will be the greatest and freest country in the world. Elected officials should realize this and embrace those seeking a better life for their families (just like myself) by crafting policies that reflect America’s empathic spirit. I urge every member of Congress, Senator, and official in the administration to support this morally necessary legislation.